Insurance Coverage – EPA flayed

Insurance Coverage – EPA flayed

Kaieteur News – The local Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has dropped a live grenade at the feet of citizens and left “Guyana and its people in grave potential danger of calamitous disaster” (“Justice Kissoon orders Exxon to provide unlimited insurance coverage within 30 days to Guyana” – KN May 4).  All Guyanese should give thanks that there are men of this country like Justice Sandil Kissoon, like alert civil society watchdogs Frederick Collins and Godfrey Whyte.  We must also be appreciative that there are Guyanese attorneys like Melinda Janki willing to invest her time and her mind to do what is in the best interests of this country and its citizens.

How we wish that we can say the same for Guyana’s EPA, but we cannot since this most crucial of safeguarding State agencies has been about what is detrimental and dangerous to Guyana and Guyanese.  We are unable to offer a word of defence, or share a phrase of friendliness, for our fellow Guyanese in the EPA.  Not when the litany of its inexplicable decisions, and its impotent actions, house possible great devastations for this land and those who live here, those who hope to benefit from this oil patrimony that leaves all so divided and exposed. The official deeds of the EPA have left us in a rough place: we have to call it out, and condemn its actions, its postures, its defences.  All are feeble; all fail any sharp light of scrutiny, any sustained examination of its work.

Judge Kissoon said it best.  It is that Guyana’s EPA has condemned itself to a “state of laxity of enforcement and condonation compounded by a lack of vigilance.”  Stronger words could not have been written into the judicial record, but there they are now.  “Laxity of enforcement” – who is Guyana’s EPA protecting?  Certainly, it cannot be said to be the Guyanese people.  “Condonation”, as the learned judge ruled, which brings forth the question: what conspiracies, what collaborations, is the EPA of the Guyanese people committed to, a part of, and fully behind?  Worse still, on this issue of full insurance coverage from Esso Guyana and its parent company, ExxonMobil, when “laxity” and “condonation” are made more dangerous by “a lack of vigilance” then what this country lives with is EPA sickness, EPA slackness, and EPA shabbiness.  Guyanese are in the greatest peril due to the long combination of this insurance coverage failure by the EPA, and all the other failures with flaring and permits, and so forth.

When the EPA should set standards not just on paper, but what lives and breathes through vigorous enforcement, it has been a sluggish, bumbling presence, an apology for a national institution with the greatest responsibilities placed in its hands.  Again, the questions keep knocking, will not die away: whose side is Guyana’s EPA on, and whose interests are its highest priorities?

Under Condition 14 of the renewed permit granted to Esso Guyana, the judge found that Esso Guyana attempted to play clever games with its liabilities by diluting them. What is degrading and disgusting is how Guyana’s EPA played along with the company, through aiding and abetting its disingenuous positions and actions.  As Judge Kissoon pointed out, pursuant to Condition 14:10 of the renewed permit, coverage of up to US$2 billion is not sufficient (“there is no hurdle”) to fulfill the obligations of Esso Guyana and its parent, ExxonMobil.

It is mystifying that the EPA could be so sloppy, such a pathetic sentinel, over what protects this country.  ExxonMobil races forward with higher and higher production levels in our offshore oilfields, and Guyana’s EPA is content to be a silent bystander, even an applauding one.  The very least that the EPA can do is to stand up for unlimited insurance coverage for Guyana.  But even that vital necessity has proven to be too much to ask of it, too much for it to stand and deliver.  The EPA should not quibble, the EPA should not quiver; the problem is that it has done both.

Now the PPP/C Government has already announced its intention to appeal Judge Kissoon’s decision.  This appeal should open the eyes of Guyanese, regarding why the EPA is the way that it is.

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